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United and Continental push through further integration plans

19 May 2011

United Continental Holdings is pushing through more transformative changes that will deepen integration between United and Continental and further enhance consistency of service offerings.

The two carriers are taking steps to align their loyalty programmes, airport services, customer policies and social media platforms.

Passengers who are members of both United’s Mileage Plus and Continental’s OnePass loyalty programmes can now link their accounts by clicking here. The merged accounts will enable members to combine miles, earn more miles faster and view mileage balances from both accounts on one website. Furthermore, elite-status frequent flyers will have priority phone access when calling either one of the two airlines.

Members of either one of the loyalty programmes can earn miles when flying with the other airline. Initially, members of the two loyalty programmes were entitled only to reciprocal benefits while full integration is expected to be complete next year (see story here).

In terms of airport services, passengers on both carriers can utilise either United or Continental’s self-service check-in kiosks at their major hub cities of Chicago, New York/Newark, Houston and San Francisco.

Additionally, the carriers introduced Premier Access, which provides premium passengers on both carriers and higher-tier frequent flyers designated check-in counters, “front of the line” boarding and priority security screening and baggage handling. Both airline lounges now also offer free wifi and the same beverages. In March this year, United Airlines also announced it will expand its mobile boarding passes facilities at international airports in order to remain consistent with Continental’s offerings. Currently, United Airlines offers this innovation at 62 US airports while Continental offers this at 70 international and domestic airports (see story here). 

The airport check-in and boarding areas dedicated to United and Continental will be rebranded over the next few months to sport the merged company’s logo and signage. The first airport to undergo this transition is Chicago O’Hare International Airport, followed by others around the world.

Since the merged carriers are still awaiting the Single Operating Certificate (SOC) from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the two carriers operate as subsidiaries of United Continental Holdings and passengers will continue to see the UA and CO airline codes at airports. United Continental Holdings is expected to receive the SOC by the end of this year and therefore by the first quarter of 2012, most of their flights will operate under the UA code instead of the CO code.

Another point of integration includes customer fees and policies. Fees are now common for same-day flight changes, standby requests, unaccompanied minor handling, in-cabin pet acceptance and other services. Prices are now also common for onboard meals and snacks. 

Finally, for those keeping track of the two carriers via Facebook or Twitter are now able to do so through a single, common channel. The carriers have set up a new Facebook page and both operate under the @United Twitter handle.

So far, since closing the merger in October last year, the carriers have co-located check-in and ticket counters and gate facilities at 40 airports around the world, as well as repainted 520 aircraft with the new United livery. Also, United Airline’s premium economy product, Economy Plus, has been retained and will be expanded onto Continental aircraft in 2012 (see story here).

For more information, visit www.unitedcontinentalholdings.com

Alisha Haridasani

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